Tag Archives: Hawaii

USNS Mercy – Pacific Partnership 2010

En route on its mission: Pacific Partnership 2010, the USNS Mercy docked in Pearl Harbor to pick up supplies and volunteers from Hawaii, before heading off to Guam. The weekend stopover also allowed ship personnel to spend a brief moment in Hawaii. But judging from the amount of visitors filing through the ship, there was little time for crew sightseeing. USNS MercyThis ship tour was a quick one, unlike previous embarks to the USS Nimitz, Santa Fe and Chung-Hoon. Whereas the previous ship visits were operational tours, experiencing the USNS Mercy was like taking a walk in a giant floating hospital. We toured operating rooms, recovery rooms, CT scanners, bio-labs, well stocked cafeteria and sizable exercise rooms. The USNS Mercy was described as being one of the largest in the Navy's fleet, second only to an aircraft carrier. Interestingly, this ship wasn't built to order. It was originally a oil freighter that was later converted in the mid-1980's to function as a humanitarian, medical facility. The USNS Mercy is on its way to Guam and a 4-month exercise called Pacific Partnership 2010. From Guam they will visit Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia and Timor-Leste. Two additional visits are scheduled to Palau and Papua New Guinea by other Navy ships. This is the fifth in a series of U.S. Pacific Fleet humanitarian efforts that started in 2006. According to the Pacific Partnership blog the mission is described as:
Pacific Partnership, which is scheduled to take place between June and September 2010, is aimed at strengthening regional relationships with host nations and partner nations in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Pacific Partnership is designed to enhance these relationships though medical, dental and engineering outreach projects that reinforce the mutually supporting roles between participants. Another benefit is to help participants practice the skills that would be called upon in response to a disaster.
You can follow the 4-month mission on a variety of social media tools. The Pacific Partnership 2010 is actively updating on their own website, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and blog. Based on their schedule they will return to Hawaii in September before heading back to home port in San Diego. All the best to the mission and crew of the USNS Mercy for all the work they do.

EUTF Open Enrollment

EUTF Open Enrollment *** In the interest of full disclosure, I am employed by HMSA and the following post will be biased toward my employer. HMSA has not paid or asked me to write this post. The above chart is from the Open Enrollment Reference Guide. The Employer-Union Health Benefit Trust Fund (EUTF) will offer Open Enrollment (OE) for health plans to all active State of Hawaii employees starting in November 2009. Open Enrollment is the time of year when employees can make a choice of what health plan they wish to have for the coming year. This is an annual process. Most of the time (and I am an example of this) when you first get hired your company will lay out its benefits choices and you setup which plan you want to go with and forget about it. Each year you are told if you don't do anything at Open Enrollment, you will rollover to your current existing plan. This is all about to change with the 65,000 active State of Hawaii workers. As described in the first option, if you currently have HMSA 90/10 PPO and you do nothing, you will get converted to HMA 90/10 PPO. HMA is a Mainland company, part of the family of I/MX family of companies based in Tempe, Arizona. If you want to stay with HMSA you will need to fill out the EC-1 form, specifically selecting HMSA.  This is very different from previous years. Action needs to be taken to stay with HMSA. I won't get into details as to why this is being handled this way. A lot of it has to do with price. Plans are different and in this OE period HMSA is offering an 80/20 PPO plan. HMSA will outline the different plans and benefits in forthcoming news releases. My intent here is to make people aware of this change. At the end of the day, each State of Hawaii employee will need to make their own decision regarding health plans based on their finances and the value their plan choice provides. I only hope that people make informed decisions and not placed in a plan because they were unaware of the change. If you have any questions please feel free to post comments here and I will personally track down the answers. If you read this post please pass it on to a fellow State employee. Mahalo!

Cellular Bioengineering Inc.

Bytemarks Lunch at Cellular BioengineeringInvent. Disrupt. Inspire. How can you not be intrigued by a company with such a bold motto? This past Friday (9/25), the Bytemarks crew converged on Cellular Bioengineering Inc. for the monthly geek lunch gathering. CBI graciously allowed us the take over their conference room. We usually catch up on the tech happenings around town but on this occasion, Dr. Mark Mugaishi launched into a presentation about some of the interesting projects the company is undertaking. Their flagship products are Eyegenix and Decongel both of which are far enough along the product development cycle to be available in the commercial market. The above photo is one of CBI's newer projects called Trutag (aka PixieTag). They have figured out a way to encode spectral codes onto a pure form of silica, as shown in the monitor on the right. This silica is broken down to very small particles, smaller than a grain of sugar that can be embedded into a drug coating. This can be read by a spectrometer and the corresponding code read to verify authenticity of the shipment, as shown on the monitor to the left. Bytemarks Lunch at Cellular BioengineeringAnother interesting project, still in its early stage is eCanary (aka CMC Chip). The idea behind this application, much like the name implies, is to build a device that you can place into a potentially hazardous environment, for example, poisonous gas, radioactive or particulate matter and determine if it is deadly. Instead of using a canary, CBI has developed a bio-sensor which combines live cardiac cells on an electronic detection chip. The integrated bio-electronics can detect responses to the live cells and conclude whether or not there is a hazardous condition. The photo shows a microscopic view of the live cardiac cells. In the image the cells were beating. If they were to stop beating, i.e. die, the electronics would detect this. Mahalos go out to Hank Wuh, Georgette Ulloa, Mark Mugaishi and Mike Oneill for their gracious hospitality and informative tour. Great work being done right here in Hawaii.

Weekend Observations

This past weekend will be one remembered by O`ahuans for a long time. It was the second island-wide blackout in as many years. It was about 6:30pm on a Friday evening. We had just finished dinner and I was settling down to my cup of coffee when the lightning flashed, the thunder crackled and the lights went out. I walked outside and noticed the darkness extend beyond Pearl City. It was an eerie feeling. We all know what followed, 12 to 24 hours without electricity. We still do not know exactly what caused it and HECO is not saying. In the ensuring days people got together and freely expressed their feelings. These are not in any particular order. They are highlights of conversations that I was a part of with others and thought I would share them with you. I may not agree with all of them but they were certainly thought provoking.
  • Island-wide Blackout: If all it takes is a lightning strike to take out the electricity for the entire island of O`ahu, can you imagine what a Hurricane Iniki would do to O`ahu. It would be devastating. How can an earthquake in 2006 on Hawaii island and now a lightning storm shut down the entire island? This only shows how fragile our infrastructure is.
  • Hawaiian Electric Industries: Confidence in HEI is at a low point with these island-wide blackouts. It brings to question their ability to manage a regional power company. Their track record in other markets like the Philippines and China have been less than stellar. Didn't they get out of those markets to focus on this market?
  • Alternative Energy: Now is the time for Hawaii to put everything it's got into establishing alternative energy as a cornerstone industry in Hawaii. We have solar, wind, geothermal, ocean and biofuel projects taking shape. Will it happen? Consensus was NO, because we are too near sighted and motivated my self interests. Hawaii does not have the will power and single minded focus. We do not have that key person with the vision and ability to execute.
  • State Legislature: There are too many agendas and near sightedness to get anything done. Generalization: the Legislature is social liberal and fiscally conservative.  Even though alternative energy makes sense, they won't fund it.
  • Act 221: The strong survive and the weak die. Act 221 skews that dynamic and artificially props up companies that should otherwise die. With that said, Act 221 should be supported in this economic downturn to help the fledgling tech industry. It might be another question when times are good.
  • Better Place: This company may be the best thing to happen to Hawaii. It would put Hawaii at the forefront of alternative energy transportation. The problem is company representatives are spending too much time with Gov. Lingle and not enough time lobbying the Legislature who appropriate the money. If that doesn't change it will just be another PR campaign.
That's it for the street rumblings. If I hear more of these I will keep you posted. Whether you agree or disagree, it is always interesting to hear what people are saying. At least I find it interesting.